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Medal record

R. Norris Williams
Men's Tennis
Gold 1924 Paris Mixed doubles

Richard "Dick" Norris Williams II (January 29, 1891 – June 2, 1968), generally known as R. Norris Williams, was an American male tennis player.



He was born in Geneva, Switzerland.

Williams is best known for his two victories at the U.S. Championships in 1914 and 1916. He was also on the victorious American Davis Cup team twice: in 1925 and 1926 and was considered a fine doubles player. He also had a reputation in singles of always hitting as hard as possible and always trying to hit winners near the lines. This made him an extremely erratic player, but when his game was sporadically "on", he was considered unbeatable.

Williams also gained fame as being a survivor of the RMS Titanic disaster in April 1912. He and his father, Charles Duane Williams, were traveling first class on the liner when it struck an iceberg and sank. Shortly after the collision, Williams freed a trapped passenger from a cabin by breaking down a door. He was reprimanded by a steward, who threatened to fine him for destroying White Star Line property, an event that inspired a scene in James Cameron's 1997 film Titanic. Williams remained on the doomed liner almost until the very end. At one point Williams' father tried to get a steward to fill his flask. The flask was given to Norris Williams and remains in the Williams family.

After being washed overboard by a wave that also took off Colonel Archibald Gracie, fellow Philadelphian Jack Thayer and Second Officer C. H. Lighttoller, along with several others, the 21 year old Williams made his way to the Collapsible A Lifeboat holding on to its side for quite a while before getting in. When Williams entered the water he was wearing a fur coat which he quickly discarded along with his shoes. Those in Collapsible A who survived were transferred to Lifeboat 14 by Fourth Officer Lowe. Although abandoned by the Carpathia, Collapsible A was recovered a month later. Amazingly, on board the lifeboat was the discarded fur coat which was returned to Williams by White Star.

Even after entering the lifeboat he spent several hours waist in freezing water. RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene to rescue survivors. His father was lost in the disaster. The ordeal left his legs so severely injured that the Carpathia's doctor wanted to amputate them. Williams, who did not want his tennis career to be cut short, opted instead to work through the injury. The choice worked out well for him: later that year, he won his first U.S. Tennis Championship, in mixed doubles, and went on to win many more championships. He also won the Davis Cup with fellow survivor Karl Behr.

Williams served in the United States Army during World War I and was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor. After the war he continued playing championship tennis.

During the fabled 1924 Olympics, at the age of 33 (and with a sprained ankle), Richard Norris Williams became a Gold Medalist in the mixed doubles. He went on to captain several winning Davis Cup teams from 1921 through 1926 as well as the 1934 team. At 44 he retired from Championship Tennis.

Williams, a noted Philadelphia investment banker, was President of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame ((Newport, Rhode Island)) in 1957.

It was not until after the publication of "A Night To Remember" that Williams became acquainted with its author Walter Lord. In 1962, Williams met with Lord and gives a detailed account of the sinking. Although it has been reported that his father, among others, was crushed by the falling forward smokestack, and that he barely escaped that fate, Williams does not mention that in his talk with Lord.

[1] [2] [3] [4]

Grand Slam record


Wimbledon Championships

  • Doubles champion: 1920 (w/Chuck Garland)

U.S. Championships

  • Singles champion: 1914, 1916
    • Singles finalist: 1913
  • Doubles champion: 1925, 1926
    • Doubles finalist 1921, 1923, 1927
  • Mixed champion: 1912


  1. ^ Wallechinsky, David (2004). The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics, Toronto: Sport Classic Books. ISBN 1-894963-34-2
  2. ^ Colonel Archibald Gracie - The Truth About The Titanic (1913), New York, Mitchell Kennerley
  3. ^ Letter from R. Norris Williams to Colonel Gracie
  4. ^ Walter Lord - The Night Lives On (1986), William Morrow & Company, ISBN 0688049397


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